A movie review of “Amira & Sam”: This initially well-observed character piece about an Iraq war veteran and an Iraqi refugee ultimately descends into romantic clichés. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
A well-intended drama that drifts into wishful thinking (with a dash of treacle), “Amira & Sam” is all over the map in terms of tone. But it does score a few points as an unusual tale about the casualties of war.
Sam (Martin Starr) is a U.S. Army veteran recently released from service after several tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. Though humble, honest and occasionally funny, Sam is having an awkward time in New York City readjusting to the inanities of civilian life. He loses his job as a security man after locking a couple of well-heeled louts in an elevator.
Amira (Dina Shihabi) is an illegal immigrant from Iraq whose family was destroyed during that country’s post-U.S.-invasion civil war. When American authorities get wise to her presence in Manhattan, she reluctantly takes refuge with a chivalrous Sam.
Movie Review ★★
‘Amira & Sam,’ with Martin Starr, Dina Shihabi, Paul Wesley. Written and directed by Sean Mullin. 88 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. SIFF Film Center.
Love blooms, but writer-director Sean Mullin ratchets up other kinds of pressure on the pair with interesting results. Sam’s cousin (the ever-fascinating Paul Wesley, the best thing about the recent “Before I Disappear”) is a manipulative hedge-fund manager trying to use Sam — who feels his soul on the line — to snare other veterans as clients. Amira faces racism and post 9-11 hostility from drunks and fools.
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Having painted these characters into a corner, Mullin is faced with choosing the real world inevitable for “Amira & Sam” or a happy ending that can’t possibly stand up. The closer he gets to his conclusion, the more “Amira & Sam” resembles a giddy romantic comedy.